Whenever I hear of an upcoming movie adaptation of a book (especially a book I love), I have a mixed reaction. Part of me is excited beyond belief to see a favourite story brought to life on the big screen. I imagine who could play the lead roles, how the book might look on screen, and start lining up the appropriate bookish friends to go see it with. The other part of me is wringing my hands with dread over the many ways the studio can ruin the book. Combine characters, remove key characters, needlessly change the time period or the setting, change major plot points from the book, etc… I’ve seen enough adaptations that I’m sure I’ve experienced them all.
I’ve often debated whether or not in the case of a movie adaptation if it’s better to see the movie first. That way you can’t be disappointed by changes because you don’t know any differently, and if the movie is well-done, it works as its own entity and you don’t enter into it comparing it with the book. A perfect example is the recent adaptation of The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared. My partner and I found it on Netflix the other night and without knowing much about it (other than it’s status as a popular novel), we decided to watch it. We knew none of the actors in the movie, it was mostly in Swedish with English subtitles, and it was a really charming and funny movie that we enjoyed tremendously. I don’t know how faithful it was to the book, and at this moment, it doesn’t really matter. At some point down the road I will probably get the book, and then I will have to try very hard to evaluate the book separately from the movie, and not let the movie experience be ruined by whatever differences there might be from the book.
When the movie is done well, such as the Harry Potter movies, everybody wins. Fans of the book are satisfied, those who haven’t read the books enjoy the movies (and hopefully are driven to read the books), and while obviously there are some differences, they aren’t major enough to detract from the enjoyment of either the book or the movie. At this year’s Oscars, a gratifyingly high number of the nominated films were based on books. Six of the eight Best Picture nominations are based on books. Some from well-known books such as The Martian, and Room, and others from quieter novels such as Brooklyn. As my partner and I movie binged during the holidays, I was pleasantly surprised at how many of the really good movies that we saw were based on books.
2015 was also a big year for YA page-to-screen adaptations, and though they don’t generally get the same critical recognition as the big adult adaptations, there were a few that I really enjoyed.
1. The Duff by Kody Keplinger.
Before you all start jumping on me about listing this movie here, I will qualify it with the fact that despite the questionable casting of Bianca, the movie was fun to watch, and had some really good moments. It certainly isn’t of the same caliber of Harry Potter or even Hunger Games, but if you happen to find it on Netflix or your local movie channel, it’s worth watching.
2. Paper Towns by John Green.
Considered by some to be one of his weaker novels, this adaptation was still worth watching. It’s reasonably close to the book, and storywise, it adds something unique to the typical road-trip novel. If you expect it to measure up to Fault in Our Stars you’ll likely be disappointed, but on its own, it’s a good teen movie.
3. Me Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews.
This was by far my favourite YA adaptation this year, and it even elicited a tear or two from my partner. The screenplay was written by the author, and it’s a totally under-the-radar, awesome book and film that has drawn some comparisons to Fault in Our Stars. It was smart, well-acted, funny, and heartbreaking without being sappy or sentimental. I immediately read the book after seeing the movie, and I was glad for having both seen and read it.
4. Esio Trot by Roald Dahl.
Starring Judi Dench and Dustin Hoffman, this book was adapted for television by BBC1 in the UK, and was charming and wonderful, and a perfect family movie that does justice to the book. As far as I know it hasn’t aired on North American television, but if you can find it to stream online or on Blu-Ray/DVD definitely watch it!
The number of book related movies coming down the pipe continues to grow. The Fifth Wave, The Little Prince, Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, A Monster Calls, The BFG, and of course Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them are all scheduled for a 2016 release, and like many of you, I will definitely be watching them with anticipation and trepidation, hoping for a great movie experience that does justice to my beloved books.
What books to movies did you most enjoy this year, and what are you looking forward to in 2016?